Distinguished bioarchaeologist Susan Pfeiffer elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

December 5, 2019 by Chris Sasaki - A&S News

Susan Pfeiffer, a professor emerita in the Department of Anthropology in the Faculty of Arts & Science, has received the prestigious distinction of fellow from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). A bioarchaeologist, Pfeiffer’s work involves the scientific study of human remains from archaeological sites.

According to the AAAS announcement, the honour recognizes her “distinguished contributions to the field of biological anthropology, particularly related to adaptations among the Later Stone Age foragers of southern Africa.” The title is given in recognition of an individual’s “efforts toward advancing science applications that are deemed scientifically or socially distinguished.”

“I think this honor reflects very well on the Department of Anthropology and the University of Toronto,” says Pfeiffer. “They provide a supportive and stimulating research environment in which scholarship can thrive.”

Pfeiffer’s research has shed light on early humans through the examination of bones and teeth using scientific methods for imaging and diet analysis. She has also explored research questions related to the ancestors of Canadian First Nations peoples — especially populations around the Great Lakes.

Pfeiffer is also committed to building relationships with Indigenous communities and served as chair of U of T’s Repatriation Committee which saw the remains of over 1700 ancestors returned by the University to the Huron-Wendat Nation.

“The Department of Anthropology is delighted that our friend and esteemed colleague has been honoured with this major award for her outstanding contributions to evolutionary anthropology,” says Janice Boddy, chair of the Department of Anthropology.

“Susan has been an exemplary citizen of our department and the University. Even more significant is her skilled and respectful collaboration with Indigenous leaders in the repatriation of ancestral collections — once housed at U of T — to the Huron-Wendat nation.”

Pfeiffer joined U of T as an associate professor in 1999 and has since served in many positions with the Department of Anthropology and the Faculty of Arts & Science, including acting chair of the department; vice-dean, graduate education & research; dean of the School of Graduate Studies; and vice-provost, graduate education.

According to Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty of Arts & Science, “Professor Pfeiffer has made profound contributions to the Faculty and the University through her research discoveries in the field of biological anthropology, her relationship building with Indigenous communities and her long-standing leadership in both the Faculty and the University. The Faculty is immensely proud of Professor Pfeiffer.”

In addition to her position at the University of Toronto, Pfeiffer is also a research associate in the Department of Archaeology at the University of Cape Town and a research professor in the Center for Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology (CASHP) at George Washington University.

She has served as associate editor of the American Journal of Physical Anthropology and was a member of the Research Advisory Board of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR).

The honour was announced on November 28, 2019 with the official award ceremony planned for February 15, 2020 at the AAAS Fellows Forum during the AAAS Annual Meeting in Seattle, Washington.

The AAAS is the largest multidisciplinary scientific society in the world and publisher of the Science family of journals. The association’s mission is to “advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people.” It was founded in 1848 and the first fellows were named in 1874.